Max Plath charged over ugly hip-drop tackle as Titans make unwanted history

The Dolphins lock will miss two weeks with an early guilty plea for his hip-drop tackle on Gold Coast winger Phil Sami.

Dolphins lock Max Plath has been charged by the NRL's match review committee for his tackle on Gold Coast winger Phil Sami. The Dolphins went top of the NRL ladder with a 30-14 win over the struggling Titans on Saturday night but their win has been soured by Plath being slapped with a two-match ban for his hip-drop tackle on the Titans winger in the first half.

The hip-drop tackle continues to be a hot-button issue, with fans, coaches and pundits all intent on it being stamped out of the game. The tackle involves defenders dropping their weight onto the lower leg of the player they're trying to tackle in an attempt to bring them to the ground and stop extra post-contact metres. However, the consequences of the tackle are severe, with many players picking up serious injuries from the act.

Max Plath has been slapped with a two weeks ban for his hip-drop tackle on Gold Coast winger Phil Sami.
Max Plath has been slapped with a two weeks ban for his hip-drop tackle on Gold Coast winger Phil Sami.

With 13 minutes left in the first half and the Titans up 10-6, the Dolphins lock was the latest to do a hip-drop tackle and it was nothing short of a sickening one at that. The No.13 dropped onto the ankle of Titans winger Phillip Sami, collapsing his body backwards as his leg buckled under the weight of his body.

Sami immediately clutched at his ankle and Plath just as quickly put his hand up in apology, realising he may have seriously injured the Titans winger. "That looked ugly," commentator Dan Ginnane said on Fox League. Corey Parker added: "(He) just gets it wrong, it’s the right call and puts his team under enormous amounts of pressure. It looks very ugly."

As Plath waited to learn whether he was set for 10 minutes or 58 on the sidelines, fans were heard chanting "off", demanding the Dolphins player be seriously punished for the illegal tackle. Plath looked resigned to his fate as he was sent to the sin bin but many thought he got off too light. While Sami was able to fortunately continue after walking off the injury, fans took to social media to demand harsher penalties for hip-drop tackles moving forward.

The hip-drop tackle has become a real issue across multiple sporting codes, such as rugby union and the NFL. The NFL had seen enough after the previous season and has moved this week to outlaw the tackle moving forward after statistics showed more than 20 per cent of hip-drop tackles in the NFL resulted in injuries.

Post-game, Wayne Bennett insisted the tackle wasn't done with any malicious intent. "Max Plath hasn’t got a dirty bone in his body so it wasn’t intentional. We don’t coach it, we don’t talk about it, we don’t practice it, and if it’s gone wrong, it’s gone wrong and we’ll just have to pay the consequences."


Des Hasler delivers spray to players after another defeat

Infuriatingly for Hasler, when Plath was sent to the sin bin momentum swung against his side and to the Dolphins. After the sin bin, the Redcliffe side took the lead through a Jack Bostock double. From there on it was all the Dolphins, with tries to Herbie Farnworth, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Josh Kerr running up a big scoreline and leaving the Titans as the only team without a win in 2024, languishing at the bottom of the table.

To make matters worse, Gold Coast also became the first club in 22 years - and just the third in NRL history - to concede 28 points in eight straight games. And winless Titans coach Des Hasler was clearly frustrated at full-time, seen delivering an almighty spray in the sheds after his side's defeat.

Cameras in the sheds caught Hasler going to town on his team, at one point walking right up to Tanah Boyd and appearing to point him out and spraying the out-of-form halfback. Cooper Cronk, who was part of the Fox League panel who saw the vision of Hasler in the sheds, said: "I hope Des is right. Des knows his team better than anyone because he spends 24-7 every day with them and trying to get them up to speed. Today is another 30 points and another 30 missed tackles from the Titans."

"The three games they’ve played this year they’ve conceded 90 points and missed 120+ tackles from the Titans, that’s not a team on the up," he continued. "So I hope behind closed doors and the things he sees during the week, there is an upward trajectory because this team is under a bit of pressure at the moment.

"Des is going off his head at the moment because he realises that they need a little bit of a sting in the arm to get a reaction because they’re 0-3 now and Des hasn’t won a game for a while, it’s 10 straight losses going back Round 18, 2022, when he was at Manly."

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: AJ Brimson of the Titans looks on after a Dolphins try during the round four NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and Dolphins at Cbus Super Stadium, on March 30, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
The Titans have became the first club in 22 years - and just the third in NRL history - to concede 28 points in eight straight games.